This is a big question and one could start the ball rolling with many different aspects of this issue. I'll start with some general claims and we'll see where the discussion goes from there. Not a lot of people are thrilled by the notion that their mind can be explained as nothing more than the workings of billions of tiny robots, by which I mean cells of course. Many people believe that the mind is full of so much content, so much mystery, and so many untouchable things that it's foolish, downright arrogant to even suggest that we could understand our consciousness as mechanical, unconscious brain activity. I contend that humans are barely conscious in the first place, as in not nearly as conscious as it seems we are. A lot of the amazing features of consciousness that we feel are there, simply aren't. Consciousness isn't nearly as hard to explain as it seems when we realize that there isn't nearly as much to consciousness as it seems. As Daniel Dennett put it, "What isn't there, doesn't need to be explained". I believe consciousness is not just a single unified feature of our brain, but an assortment of tricks and judgments, expectations and (dis)confirmations, that help us, as well as many other mammals and possibly some birds, perform the kind of tasks that are relevant to our survival. Obviously saying consciousness isn't all it's cracked up to be doesn't actually begin to explain what it is, but I believe a big part of that question is explaining what it isn't. I'll start with what I hope some will find to be interesting statements that we can further explore as the thread progresses. Consciousness is the serial software that runs on the parallel processing of the brain's hardware. It is a method of auto-stimulation. Thoughts and speech help communicate information between different parts of the brain that aren't directly wired together. Consciousness is what it's like to be a brain with two hemispheres that process different information, in different ways, with different tools, but ultimately guide the actions of a single organism. Consciousness is the tool of informavores, a term coined by psychologist George Miller I believe. It is all the extra information gathering that can occur in animals that can receive, process, and analyze more data than is immediately necessary for their survival. I think that's a good place to start. I won't pretend to be able to explain and illustrate the entire proverbial elephant, but perhaps we can all blindly fondle this topic together and glean some deeper understanding This question came up in another thread about vegans and vegetarians while discussing whether or not fish feel pain.